Week 1 NY Volunteer Physician for month of December at Hadassah Hospital

Written after first Shabbat in December

Many have called me courageous and praised me for coming to Israel for a month.

I don’t feel that way.

I can’t give you any insight that you won’t get from newspapers, TV, etc.

If you need an update at any time on Israeli-Hamas conflict and the rabid antisemitism of the world, especially in the UN and American Universities, you can just open any newspaper., but to learn the Israeli perspective,

I refer you to internet sites of Times of Israel, Jerusalem Post, and I 24 news.

From a personal perspective, I live in Jerusalem and life is going on here as usual, except for lack of tourists. I was told not to take public buses, not to go to tourist sites, and not to take taxis driven by Arab Israelis. All those warnings were wrong. I take public buses from my apartment in Jerusalem to Hadassah hospital, along with thousands of other Jerusalemites who use public transportation. I walked to Ben Yehudah street and joined hundreds there eating and shopping. Via the Gett phone app to get a taxi, I was assigned Arab Israeli taxi drivers, who were the most polite taxi drivers I have ever met. I walked to the Kotel several times (not via the shuk), and joined hundreds there in prayer.

There is a tremendous support for the captives and members of the Israel defense forces. I donated money to an organization (Jerusalem Chamal) that is supporting 75 thousand evacuees from southern and northern Israel who are now housed in nearly every hotel in Israel. (Before I left for Israel, Shari and I donated to many other Israeli organizations.) I was needed in Hadassah’s GI department because four of their young attendings and fellows are in and out of serving in the reserves.

My phone has a “home front” application so that if a siren goes off warning of an incoming rocket. The phone app will tell me if the rocket is coming within 100 yards of my location, and if so how much time I have to find shelter. So far I have not heard any sirens. Jerusalem gets the infrequent car rammings and stabbings. The rest of Israel gets rockets. (Hamas is usually afraid to bomb the Al Asqua mosque). The Tel Aviv area is getting attacked by rockets daily, and I am avoiding that area for now, even though I have friends and relatives there.

The computer screensaver at the hospital says “we will succeed” and all over Israel are pictures of Israeli captives. At the Kotel (Western Wall) during Hannukah there is a large attendance to light candles for the holiday, and to light candles for each of the hostages. I went there Saturday night, and it was very moving, with hundreds in attendance. My med school classmate who moved to Israel 35 + years ago lost a daughter to suicide last year. Israelis have similar life events as we do in the US, but everything is compounded by current events.

Google Maps which has an information bar across the top for restaurants, gas stations, etc, has inserted a “bomb shelter” icon, so wherever I am in Israel, Google Maps can tell me where the closest bomb shelter is and how to get there. One one occasion my Google Maps said I was in Cairo, and I would need 7 days and 20 hours to get to a store which was only 2 blocks from where I was standing. Apparently Israel occasionally interferes with Google Maps to confuse either terrorists or GPS guided missiles from Hezbollah – I am really not sure which.

I had Shabbat dinner with Rabbi Paul and Sara-Lee Fox in Talpiot. One of their guests has a son fighting in Gaza. The son was 6 feet from Eisenkot’s son when an explosive device killed Gal Eisenkot. Their guest’s son was unharmed. The father didn’t know if he could call his son’s safety a miracle if someone else had died. In thinking about this, he started crying. Two days later, Eisenkot also lost a nephew.

While Americans in the US are interested in the facts written above, when I am teaching gastroenterological endoscopies to the Hadassah GI fellows, none of that matters.

I am going to give one of my GI pearl lectures in about 2 weeks. The GI weekly conference has a 20 minute journal club, where the presenter shows on PowerPoint articles from English language journals such as the Red Journal or Gastro, but then discusses the article in Hebrew. Fortunately I had read the articles, so I knew the context. Two of the doctors I am covering just lost brothers who were fighting in Gaza.

Hospital bureaucracy here in Hadassah is no different anywhere else. The young doctors I am teaching need the same help as doctors in training need in the US. No major differences. The hospital, I am told, is not as busy as usual, as Hadassah is used to caring for hundreds of Gazan citizens. One of the trainees here in the GI department only reached med school because he received an IMPACT scholarship from the FIIDF. He was extremely impressed and grateful that I also am sponsoring an IMPACT student. If you want to learn more about these scholarships, go to FIDF.org. Hadassah hospital is an oasis from the war. The orderlies are mostly Arab, at least 30% of the nurses are Arab, and at least 30% of the doctors are Arab. At least 30% of the patients are Arab. Everyone works together as one family, with frequent expressions of warmth, hugging, and many words of thanks and praise to each other.

I have been giving out copies of my Haggadah to anyone who hosts me for a meal. An Anglo-Israeli magazine (ESRA) interviewed me. My Haggadah is now on preorder, and should be available on Amazon earlier than expected, hopefully by the end of this month or early January. I have an interview scheduled with Jerusalem Report in two days. The Haggadah commentary that I wrote is the most relevant Haggadah for today’s times and for more information go to the web site: Chinitzzionhaggadah.com.

Everyone I meet knows soldiers in the IDF, and most have some connection to some who had been killed or taken hostage. Shari’s cousin who has huge agricultural fields receives dozens of volunteers daily (There is a crucial lack of day laborers as all the Thais left and west bank Arab laborers are forbidden.) Nearly the entire country is either serving or volunteering. I have friends who have children serving in the IDF, and they cringe whenever the phone rings. Some people I speak to say that they are more worried about the antisemitic situation in America than they are about Gaza. Everyone here knows about the disgraceful testimony from the presidents of Penn, Harvard and MIT.

In summary, I am neither courageous nor humble. I am doing my duty as a Jew and an avid Zionist. The Israelis are the heroes.

Originally published in Times of Israel